“Everything in this facility is going wireless!! ...Can we use wireless card readers for these doors?”

It is a common request expressed during the early design phase and can make sense in certain situations based on operational needs.

Wouldn’t it be great if all access control doors designed in healthcare facilities were wireless? Ideally, they could just ride on the hospital’s wireless access point infrastructure, be managed remotely, allow for quick reprogramming, and best of all, require no wiring! These are definitely benefits of IP-based access control systems, but integrating wireless locksets as part of the access control system design is more complex once you begin coordination with the door hardware manufacturer to meet owner needs. Here are two things to consider:

Say you want to incorporate wireless locksets on doors where there is minimal wall space and/or insufficient area for conduit pathway to the lockset (glass doors, etc.), then wireless locksets may be beneficial and more cost effective. They may also be appropriate to install in existing facilities or in renovation projects where budgets are tight and infrastructure modifications need to be minimal. Other locations where they might be considered are departmental areas such as Physician Lounges and/or office areas. One of the benefits of wireless locksets in these areas is they can be remotely accessed and programmed by the director of that unit, as changes may occur frequently and do not necessarily need to be managed by the security staff.

However, wireless locksets may not always be the best choice, so wireless lockset selection is critical to the design process. There are many questions that need to be discussed prior to final selection. Does the lockset require battery power and what is the battery life? What are the maintenance replacement protocols of the batteries? What do the batteries cost and how does that impact the cost/value equation? Will the lockset send alarms to indicate low battery life? Is the system truly wireless and does it allow for remote programming, or does it require individual programming at each door, or an upload to each door? Can the wireless lockset be used in the life safety egress path?

Wireless locksets also can be dependent on the access control system that they will be communicating with. Does the hospital have an Enterprise security system that will interface to the selected wireless lockset? How will programming between the two devices be done?

There are many integration details that need to be discussed as part of the final wireless lockset selection to make sure operational intent is met and there are no issues with the integration between the access control system software and proposed wireless lockset. One of the most important is for the security system designer and door hardware consultant to review the proposed wireless lockset with the hospital’s IT department to ensure the wireless locksets can ride on the hospital network and that wireless security protocols are met between the two systems. The wireless lockset manufacturer may have to complete the hospital’s IT security questionnaire prior to the device being approved for deployment within the facility. The type of WAN connection also needs to be confirmed and approved (802.11, 802.15.4, etc.). Another item that will need to be reviewed is to ensure the new wireless lockset will work with the existing hospital security badges, either proximity or smart cards.

Communication and coordination is key when making security system design decisions. GBA has vast experience in security system design and would love to help you through access control and other system decisions on your next project.

Josh Kelly, BS, RCDD
Project Manager, GBA
Direct line: 615-218-8861